Erosion of Customs – Where and Why are We Erring?

Our elders held the families together. Manroshan Singh Bhatt, a student at a Malaysian university, cherishes the memory of his grandmother Mata Swaran Kaur

| Opinion | Malaysia | 13 July 2016 | Asia Samachar |
Manroshan and his grandmother - PHOTO / SUPPLIED
Manroshan and his grandmother – PHOTO / SUPPLIED

by Manroshan Singh Bhatt

The loss of a family member is tough to swallow, especially so, if it is the passing of the older generation, the stalwarts of the family. The passing of grandparents should not be seen as the passing of a generation per se, but more than that, it should rightly symbolise the passing of deeply guarded values and traditions to the next generation of the family.

We, Generation Y, often forget the vital role grandparents play in nurturing us and are quick to look past them for our own self-interest. It is a bleak scenario, as we see moral values and ethnic practices that were once so cherished by our forefathers now becoming an afterthought amongst the younger generation. Let us all remember that we reap the harvest of our grandparents’ ploughing. Grandparents are to any extent, the most important people in our society. Our existence on this planet is traced back to them and while times have changed, their role in families should most definitely not. They continue to be our source of support and encouragement when we feel low.

The same can be said of my late paternal grandmother, Mata Swaran Kaur, who left us on 1 July. She was a gem of a lady, lovingly known as Maa by her descendants. Hailing from Punjab, she and my late grandfather, Sardar Dara Singh Bhatt, sailed Malaysian shores in late 1940s. As he, along with his brothers, founded the well established Punjabi restaurant Jai Hind in Kuala Lumpur, my grandmother was the sturdy pillar of the family and dedicated her time and energy to nurture the family. Maa will be remembered for her excellent interpersonal skills and meticulous nature, paying fine attention to every detail in her endeavours, especially in instilling the value of self-management and discipline in her children. A noteworthy thought is her multiple talents and her aptness in multitasking, while still managing to raise her four children. She was a fine seamstress, gifted in stitching garments of sorts to support the household’s textile shop in Taiping.

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This truly exemplifies the efforts of the older generation and how they were able to hold the family together while succeeding at pulling in income to sustain themselves. These female elders cannot be marginalized as mere homemakers, but their strong economic contribution to the sustenance of the household has to be acknowledged.

The same cannot be said of the majority of the current crop of youths, who often lament about their inability to juggle multiple tasks. It boggles me how our grandparents did it with such ease and endurance, all with limited resources at their disposal. A moment of reflection on our actions will help us count our blessings as we ravel in luxury, thanks to the blood, sweat and tears of our grandparents.

Manroshan and family - PHOTO / SUPPLIED
MY FAMILY: The baton of values is now handed to our family of 23 members – PHOTO / SUPPLIED

An ode must be made to Maa in respect to how she valued and held on to traditions, values and cultural beliefs. Rwaaj (customs), as we call them, were keenly observed as well as by other people of her time, who found it sacrilegious to not adhere to these deeply rooted traditions. Unfortunately, it is a far cry for the younger kids on the block, who more often than not ridicule some of these beliefs and always find opportunities to question these traditions. Being inquisitive can be praised upon, but outright criticisms under the guise of rational and logical reasoning are sometimes displaced and unfortunate; we fail to cherish and embrace these traditions and values that have been handed down by our grandparents. We often like to think we’re better than the preceding generation, hence some actions of the said generation are frowned upon and dismissed as frivolous.

This derogatory mindset must change, as practising these values does not only reflect the family legacy, but also the continuation of culture for the race, as a whole. In the name of progress and in pursuit of material wealth, we have forgone many traditions and customs as we render them useless and insignificant. Whilst some may be deemed illogical, on a broad spectrum, these customs are largely in place for a reason. With that being said, it is imperative that we make an effort to keep these traditions and customs going strong (as long as they do not contradict or go against Sikhi principles).

As modernisation and globalisation threaten to wash off our traditional beliefs, the onus is then on us to treat traditions with utmost value as they form the backbone of the Punjabi / Sikhi culture. As a minority race, acculturation and assimilation are inevitable, but we are often inclined to dilute more than we should, hence, a firm standpoint is crucial.

The elders (like my Maa) who cherished these customs knew what they were doing based on timeless judgement, but we, the youngsters, never fail to question and blatantly reject these notions. It is with deep regret that the newer generation may be educationally and intellectually esteemed, but we sorely lack wisdom, knowledge and fill ourselves with egotism and individualism, a stark contrast to the people of the past.

The love and respect we have for our grandparents must not only be expressed in our words, but also portrayed in our actions and behaviour. The older generations are the pillars and building blocks of our society, and as such, we should cherish them and hold them in the highest regard. The passing of my grandmother has opened my eyes to a wider world and made me wonder on the true meaning of life, and that the precious human life we are blessed with is finite in nature, hence we should all make the most out of it. Holding on to her values, practices and teachings in the biggest ode I can pay to my Maa, and I plan on doing such to continue her legacy.

Let us all appreciate our grandparents while we can as they truly are one of God’s angles that touch our lives.

Manroshan Singh Bhatt, 19, is pursuing Bachelor of Accounting at Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur.


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  1. A timely reminder to Y-generation as it is perceived that current culture is ME FOR ME and with persuit for material things most sacrifice relationships with GRAND PARENTS AND ELDERLY BEING THE FIRST VICTIMS and parents not being far behind.
    I am referring to observed trends and not being personal.
    VALUE AND IMPORTANCE IS REALIZED ONLY WHEN THEY ARE GONE and by those who do not have them and by those who lose them when still young.
    The custom of placing ghee in the mouth of the deceased has little meaning if the deceased was not cared for when alive as it others may know how the deceased was treated.